An unsuspected case has emerged as unusual and strange in the exemplary management of the coronavirus in Formula 1. A denialist driver. He is not one of the 20 famous stars who man the best cars on the planet, but the driver who takes care of them all. The South African Alan van der Merwe, the driver of the medical car, refuses to be vaccinated against Covid after having been infected twice by the virus.
Last year, Formula 1 designed a meticulous plan to sustain the impact of Covid 19 that was successfully resolved. Extreme bubbles in the paddock of each grand prix, impossibility of relationships between certain team members, PCR analysis of everyone every race weekend, bubbles in the teams inside the bubbles, and no contact with the outside world. This is how he managed to save the World Cup, with 17 appointments on the calendar, without leaving Europe or crossing from one continent to another, and bringing together the last three Grand Prix in the Persian Gulf with two events in Bahrain and one in Abu Dhabi.
In this period, at least seven pilots have tested positive for the virus. Sergio Pérez, Lance Stroll, Lewis Hamilton, Lando Norris, Charles Leclerc, Pierre Gasly and Kimi Raikkonen They had to overcome the symptoms of the disease, with Hamilton being the one who, apparently, felt the effects of the coronavirus the most. He missed three races at the end of last season.
The 2021 campaign had relaxed some measures and, far from normal, the F1 paddock was beginning to want to resemble something of what it was. At the last Grand Prix of Turkey, held last Sunday in Istanbul Park, the driver of the medical car had to be replaced for his refusal to be vaccinated.
The medical car is considered the fastest ambulance in the world. He stands behind the cars on the starting grid and after a full turn, stops at the garages. But at the exit, in the event of an accident, the doctors can get to the accident as quickly as possible. This is what happened in Bahrain last year, the terrifying fire-engulfed accident of Romain Grosjean with the Haas that the medic car instantly rushed to. The doctors saved the life of the Frenchman by his quick and effective intervention. In the vehicle, in addition to the pilot, the doctor travels with the medical supplies for first aid.
Alan van der Merwe is the driver of the medical vehicle. He is a South African ex-driver who won the British Formula Ford in 2003, quarry of champions. He competed in Formula 3,000 and at Le Mans, but never made it to Formula 1. He did it as a crew member of the medical car.
Van der Merwe caught Covid last season and tested positive again last week, ahead of the Turkish Grand Prix. And he reported on his social networks that he had not received the vaccine for “personal reasons.”
And he expanded on his twitter. “In Switzerland (I’m half Swiss) and other developed countries, previous infection counts as much as a vaccine.” “I trust that those countries (those that do not admit entry without the vaccine) know what they are doing and I also respect the more restrictive rules of other countries and I will not travel there.” «I am fully aware that potentially I will have fewer job opportunities or that my freedom of movement will be restricted depending on my choices. “The fact that I am not choosing convenience over my own health does not mean that I am making decisions out of selfishness. We all want to be healthy.
The South African is the first driver of those who are located every weekend on the starting grid that does not want to be vaccinated and one of the few members of the human caravan of Formula 1 that is integrated into the denialist current. In Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi vaccination is required to enter the country or the paddock area.
Van der Merwe drives a car responsibility of the International Automobile Federation (FIA) and this body has already announced that it will meet the requirements that each country demands and, therefore, the South African pilot will have to stay home due to his personal convictions.